Saturday, August 17, 2013

Flintstone & Mad Irish Dave’s Rules to Teaching Saudi Students

 “Teach all you want.  Teach with your hair on fire.  Teach so good pigs sprout wings and fly out your bleeding arse.   Arab students will only catch 5% of what you say.”  - Mad Irish Dave’s Rules to Teaching Saudi Students

In Saudi, my classroom was out in the material warehouse, a  place that stored hazardous materials and highly flammable gasses.  I was in the middle, Flintstone to my right.  Mad Irish Dave to my left.  
 “Of that 5%, about .025 will be considered useful enough to make a purse out a sow’s ear.”  - Mad Irish Dave’s on Teaching Saudi Students

Both men were very different.  Irish Dave with his thinning brown hair and collection of little futbol neckties barely passing four buttons on his shirt, quick with a joke and a funny saying, then dropping his voice into a melancholy woe as he spoke of his daughter and how her mother was lost to him now.
 “You ain’t nothing.  Not e’en a person.  Ain’t no TEE-cher, man.  You a product.  You a bottle of Coke got drunk up and smashed on the ground.  Get use’d to being drained, fool!”  -Flintstone on Teaching Saudi Students

Then there was Flintstone, broad shouldered and thick thighed.  A head full of disheveled black hair and cartoonish nose and chin as if carved out of marble.  Flintstone was the most usual speaker, always patterning his words like a street rapper, even when teaching.  I couldn’t imagine what his students thought of him, this overweight, towering man who needed the desert for elbow room. 
 “Students be talkin’ at ya, students be talkin’ through ya, students be talkin’ to ya!  All of it ‘bout a bitch.”  - Flintstone on Teaching Saudi Students

We made a unique little pod together.  Flintstone kicking open my door after the students left for the day, spitting into his hands and beat-boxing, rapping about camels and Saudi princes.  Or Mad Irish Dave, watching the Premiere League on his computer and cursing so loud I could hear it through the cement walls.
“Students may not be able to tell you their name in English, but they can all say, ‘Go F--- yourself, you son of a b----!’”  - Mad Irish Dave on Teaching Saudi Students

We leaned on each other.  Mostly because we didn’t have a choice, but other times because we’d all rather laugh than weep.  The more time we spent together, I began to see these men in a different way.  Flintstone told me that Mad Dog didn’t have a passport anymore.  That he’d traded it to Bedouin a few years back and now would never be able to leave.  Flintstone loved Mad Dog, only fool crazy enough to dress in a woman’s black abaya robe and sneak into Mecca.  
“You will connect with NO MAN!  You an OUTSIDER!  You the ENEMY!  Only reason they let you in is to slice ya throat!”  - Flintstone on Teaching Saudi Students

Then of course, there was Bangkok Phil.  He’d sneak over and stand in the classroom with his arms crossed telling dirty jokes and making me cringe.  Then one time he left and Irish Dave leans over, “You know, his dad was on Flight 11.”
“Yeah, Phil’s dad was on Flight 11, the one that crashed into the North Tower.”
I was too stunned to speak.
“He was here teaching when it happened.  Saw the students running in the streets, cheering.  Shooting off their guns, but he didn’t know his dad was on the plane.  When he found out, that’s when he went to Thailand and everything fell apart.”
I got my bag and headed to the bus.  Spent the rest of the day in silence.  Sometimes, you’re better off knowing nothing and having no one.

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